budgeting for organics

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but our family’s quest to eat more organic produce sometimes leaves my wallet feeling a bit too empty. This is one reason I’ve been planning a big garden this summer, but this IS northern Michigan and we can only grow so much of our own. We still find ourselves reaching for a banana or orange every day no matter how far it’s traveled. Sigh.

Soooo… when I stumbled upon this handy wallet chart from My Paper Crane, which depicts the organic produce that *always* should be chosen and the low-pesticide foods, which we could skip over if we needed to save a few bucks that week, I cheered. Plus, it’s cute as a button, right?

You can download a copy of it here for your very own wallet. Thank you, My Paper Crane, for such a lovely, clever idea (and nice photos). I already know that next week’s shopping trip will be a helluva lot more fun. Who doesn’t love vegetables and fruits with googlie eyes?

harbingers of Spring

It’s decidedly Spring in northern Michigan when the rhubarb’s thigh-high (remember, I’m short) and the local asparagus decides to pop its happy, green head through the sandy soil. At today’s windy, cold (36) first outdoor farmer’s market of the season, we giddily found both. The smiles of the farmers in spite–or perhaps, because–of the weather, made the outing worthwhile. OK, the down coat helped too. And the hot coffee from Morsel’s on the walk home. And being with my family. So I hereby dedicate this week to the tastiest harbingers of Spring, rhubarb and asparagus. Follow along on some tasty adventures with me this week! Rhubarb crisp and asparagus frittata, anyone? Or maybe some cream of asparagus soup to warm you up? What are YOUR favorite asparagus and rhubarb recipes?

Got plans for next weekend already? Of course it includes a trip to Empire for the 7th Annual Empire Asparagus Festival, right? Rain or shine, asparagus-lovers unite to celebrate the mighty green stalk. Even roasted asparagus beer. Yes! You will find it courtesy of Traverse City’s Right Brain Brewery. And lots more spear-ited fun! Hope to see you there.

Becoming Pepper Potts

Are you an Ironman fan? I loved the first one so much I think I squealed and grinned. A lot. Needless to say, I’m pretty darn stoked that Ironman 2 is opening this weekend. You? So today I got my weekly GOOP newsletter, which is written by Gwyneth Paltrow. In it she details her fitness and food secrets that transformed her into Pepper Potts. I laughed out loud at the part where she says her 5-day (!) diet was enough to get rid of her “winter weight.” Wow, just one week, huh? Heck, I’ll try anything for a week. Especially if it would leave me looking like a buff and tough Pepper Potts. (Don’t you love that name?!)


So here it is, straight from the newsletter. How Gwyneth became Pepper Potts in 5 days…

Ironman 2 Daily Prep:

7 am:

Wake up, have a green tea


A Think Thin bar


Clean Shake:

1 cup Almond Milk

a handful of blueberries (optional)

A level scoop of Dr. Alejandro Junger’s “Move” powder

A scoop of Dr. Alejandro Junger’s “Nourish” powder

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Note: Breakfast is a good time to take your daily multivitamin.

8 am – 9:30 Workout

Here’s a teaser for one of my workouts for Ironman 2. In order to view the full workout, just click on this link and enter your email address.

Do this video plus 45 minutes of dance cardio. Tracy Anderson has several dance cardio DVD’s available for beginners and upwards.


Kale Juice

This is an incredibly healthy, refreshing way to start your day. Kale is full of calcium and antioxidants and just about everything else—it’s one of the best things you can put into your system. When juiced with a bit of lemon and agave, kale turns into a sort-of grassy lemonade. No worries if you don’t have a juicer, a blender and a sieve do the trick.

1 bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves washed

the juice of 2 smallish lemons

1 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 cup cold water

Combine everything in a blender and blitz until completely pureed. It might take a little bit of time and a shove to get it going. Strain the juice through a fine sieve into a bowl, pushing down on the solids with a kitchen spoon being sure to extract all the juice. Taste the juice and add a bit more lemon or agave if you think it needs it. Pour into a glass and drink up.

1 pm Lunch Tracy sent me a few suggestions for a few healthy wraps – vegan and non-vegetarian.

Vegan Option #1

1 Mountain Valley Wrap (super low carb, low calorie, tortilla wraps that you can find at your local health food store)

1.5 tablespoons of Almond Butter

Chopped Dates

Vegan Option #2

Mountain Valley Wrap

1 Avocado

Tomato slices

Cucumber slices

Jicama slivers

Non-Vegetarian Option

Mountain Valley Wrap

Oven roasted turkey plain (no salt)

Tomato slices

Cucumber slices

1tbsp honey mustard (Mix 1 tbsp mustard with 1 tsp honey)

Lemony Grilled Chicken I came up with this recipe as an alternative to the wraps in order to add a little variety to lunch time.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast

Lemon juice

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Marinate the chicken breast in lemon juice and a tiny (emphasis on tiny) bit of olive oil. Season well and grill. Serve with the steamed vegetable or vegetable salad of your choice.


Here are a few snacks to hold you over until dinner:

A small handful of almonds


A GT’s Raw Organic Kombucha (note: Be sure to stick with the bottles labeled GT’s Raw Organic Kombucha over the Synergy Organic & Raw varieties, as these have fruit juice in them.)


Kale Juice


Turkey Kale Soup Tracy also shared this recipe with me. Another super-low calorie recipe, it does not lack in flavor.

1 Yellow onion quartered

10 Cloves garlic minced

2 leeks

asparagus tips

3 Stalks of celery

1 Parsnip

A handful of thyme

2 Sprig rosemary

2 Low sodium vegan bullion cubes

12 C Water

Bunch parsley minced

2 lbs. Boneless skinless turkey breast

1 T Soy sauce

1-2 lb. Kale

Rub the turkey with half the garlic, half the rosemary, half the thyme, soy sauce and half the parsley. In a soup pot add remaining ingredients except for the kale, sauté on medium heat about 10 minutes so the vegetables start to brown.  Cover with water and add bullion simmer about 3 hours so the vegetables are cooked. Strain broth, meanwhile place turkey with seasonings in a covered roasting pan into a 370 degree oven. Roast about 1 ½ hours or until cooked. Take out of the oven uncover and let cool about an hour. Shred the turkey and add it to the strained broth. Take the stems out of the kale chop and add to the broth cook another hour. Serve garnished with fresh parsley and a splash of soy sauce to taste.

Chopped Veggie Salad Chop the vegetables of your choice into small pieces and dress with a light vinaigrette. I recommend shallots which add an extra kick. Here’s a combination I particularly like:

The lettuce of your choice

Steamed beets






Note: Be sure to rotate the recipes to keep the days interesting.


In preparation for the viewing of Ironman 2, maybe I’ll try to become Pepper Potts too and see what happens. What say you, dear readers? Anyone else?

Still leeking.

Back to that leek.

A friend and fellow locavore sent me this article, which made me question harvesting the wild leeks. Seems as though the increased popularity of wild-harvested foods like mushrooms, leeks and fiddleheads comes at a cost. And not just to your pocketbook at your local market. To our favorite lady, Mother Nature. Commercialization could easily lead to extinction the article posits. Ouch.

According to the article,

(All) this attention isn’t good news for the leek, says Gérald Le Gal, president of the Quebec-based Association for the Commercialization of Forest Mushrooms and owner of Gourmet Sauvage, a company that sells prepared wild fruits and vegetables.

He doesn’t think anyone should be selling ramps.

“Don’t touch the stuff. It’s just too vulnerable,” he says. When you pick a ramp, you take the entire plant, including the bulb. Once the bulb is gone, there is nothing left of the plant; it will not grow back the next year. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority considers it to be “a species of conservation concern.” And eating a nice sized bulb could be the equivalent of dining on an old-growth cedar. “It’s a really, really, slow-growth plant. A bulb could be 18 to 20 years old,” Mr. Le Gal says.

Ouch. Now I’ve got a bad case of green guilt. You? Anyone know of a way to sustainably harvest the wild leeks, like the article briefly mentions? Perhaps if we just pick a couple handfuls for our own personal use and resist the temptation to bring a car load to the farmer’s market? What’s your opinion, dear readers?

Yummy new quest!

I’m excited to give you the inside scoop on my yummy new adventure. The Dairy Lodge Diet!

I admit it. My favorite food is ice cream. My passion for the cool, sweet, creamy stuff has led me to be employed with several different ice cream joints; it turns out this is not good for a gal’s waistline. I even went so far as to own and manage an ice cream joint one year. I think I gained about ten pounds every time I was involved in the operations of an ice cream establishment. It took me three times to learn the lesson. Oof. Finally I decided it’s best for me to be a loyal ice cream customer instead. When our local ice cream stand, The Dairy Lodge, opened for the season this year, I could hardly wait to scurry our family on down there for a vanilla cone with colored sprinkles. While waiting in line and looking at all the possible offerings, I wondered, “who eats gummi bear flurries & marshmallow shakes?” Someone’s got to because they’re still on the menu, right? Why not me? Why not branch out and try everything they have to offer? It always comes from a smiling face so it must taste good… so goes my reasoning.

Please join in and follow along on my quest to try everything on the menu at The Dairy Lodge. What are your favorites? I’d like to hear about them!

In full disclosure, this is my own silly, fun, tasty idea. The Dairy Lodge is not paying me to take this adventure. I’m simply a loyal customer who conveniently lives within walking distance. Dangerous!

Check out my new blog and let me know what you think. mmmmmmm.

Man the pumps! We’ve sprung a leek.

That’s right, folks, we’ve sprung a leek. Millions of them. They’re springing up and making the nearby woods smell earthy and oniony. Spring has sprung! No morel sightings yet, but the leeks are here in a big way. (They’re also known as “ramps” in other parts of the country. Maybe in your neck of the woods?)

Check them out in this photo. See all that lovely green stuff popping through last fall’s leaves? That’s them! I wish this could be a “scratch and sniff” photo, but technology hasn’t gotten there quite yet…

These yummies are great with fresh asparagus and morels, but we’re not that far into spring in these parts. So how ’bout these ideas?

Spaghetti with wild leeks

Wild leek and sausage risotto

Roasted chicken with wild leeks and potatoes

Wild leek & potato soup


According to Traverse Magazine, here are some helpful wild leek tips:

  • Do preserve leeks by pickling, drying or freezing. Just blanch first for 2-3 minutes.
  • Do use both the bulb and milder leaves
  • Do use a tool like a long knife or dandelion digger to help loosen the root hairs that grow from the tip of the bulb
  • Do store, unwashed, in refrigerator for up to one week.
  • Don’t leave piles of leeks on the kitchen counter too long or your kitchen will smell like a bus in Rome on a midsummer day


If you don’t have time to pick your own or can’t find them near you, consider ordering some Pickled Wild Leeks from Food for Thought.

Isn’t that a lovely photo? I can almost taste them. Enjoy!

Waffle day!

Happy Friday to you dear readers. True early spring in northern Michigan has made her appearance; the rooftops are white. Good thing I didn’t take the snow tires off yet. I’d like to send a big shout out to my inherent procrastination! Woot woot! What’s it like in your neck of the woods? If it’s 75 and sunny, just keep it to yourself.

When I wake up early (and STAY up), I’m usually motivated to make a nice “from scratch” breakfast instead of the usual stand-bys, which consist of some kind of egg & toast, peanut butter on toast or Grape Nuts with fruit. I was inspired by the “Healthy Start” yogurt waffles in this month’s Everyday Food magazine. (Don’t you love that publication? I always get something out of it.)

I don’t put the words waffles and healthy in the same category so maybe that’s why I was drawn to this recipe? Plus, we have some fresh maple syrup from Grandpa Jon’s 2010 tap so what better reason to wake up to freshly-baked waffles, right?

Yogurt Waffles

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
(Note: I used a mix of spelt flours and threw in a generous amount of flax seed meal instead of the flours listed)
1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
3/4 t coarse salt
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 T melted unsalted butter, plus a bit more for the waffle iron
3 large eggs (farm fresh, if you’ve got ’em!)
1.5 cups plain, low-fat yogurt

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together brown sugar, butter, eggs, and yogurt until smooth.

2. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture and mix well to combine. Let batter sit 15 minutes.

3. Heat waffle iron according to its directions; brush with melted butter. Pour 1/2 cup batter onto iron and close; cook until waffle is golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Repeat. Makes about 6 waffles. We like to make a big batch of waffles and freeze for another day.

They looked pretty, but did these “healthy waffles” taste any good? Let’s go and ask the expert, shall we?

On a scale of 1-10, Wren would give them about a 4. I gave them about a 6. When I slathered on a generous serving of peanut butter and a drizzle of pure maple syrup, they bumped up to maybe an 8. Go figure… They were pretty good, but I prefer a much crispier waffle. I believe it takes a lot of butter (like at least another stick+) to make a crispier waffle and “healthy waffle” would really be a silly notion. Sigh. “A” for effort!

Happy weekend to you! Any fun brunch or spring cleaning plans? Whatever you do, wherever you are, enjoy yourself.

Confessions. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

  • I’ve been thinking A LOT about spring cleaning, but the first word that comes to mind is drudgery. I’m working first on changing my attitude toward cleaning in general and hoping this attitude change will propel me into–at the very least– a more content cleaner. More about this in a future post…
  • Orange is still my favorite color. A friend told me that she heard on NPR that orange is the new black. Uh oh! Is it time for me to find a new favorite color?
  • My running and yoga have been going pretty well lately. Turns out carrying less weight on a midget frame does indeed help one to move and twist more happily and easily. Revelation!
  • Sunday night we’re going out for the first time sans Wren. All week I’ve been stressed out about it. Will she starve to death without the boob? No. Will she be unhappy? Possibly. Will she survive without me for an evening? Yes. But I still worry. Will I enjoy myself? Probably not a lot. Sigh. Will this get easier? Yes. So I know I have to do it, but I’m not feeling very good about it. Geesh.


toad in a hole squirrel-style

I’m on an egg kick. Last week, Grape Nuts. This week, eggs. I was up early this morning so I thought it’d be fun to do a quick version of “toad in a hole” eggs for breakfast rather than just a fried egg and toast. But remember, be squirrely, right?! So here they are, toad in the hole squirrel-style eggs. Can you help me with a better name for these, geesh?

Happy Tuesday to you! What kind of squirrely things will you be up to today, dear readers?


As if I really needed a good reason to mix up some butter and sugar…

But a new number-shaped cookie cutter set inspired me! Won’t these make cute cookies for a wee one’s birthday party? So here’s my question for you, dear readers. Should I just make cookies in the shape of the number 1 this year for Wren’s first birthday, or all the numbers? I know, I know, deep thoughts. Sorry, but this Mamma doesn’t get enough sleep for quantum physics. Sooooo I decided to do a test run today using my favorite Orange Cardamom Cookie recipe adapted from Gourmet via Epicurious.

Orange Cardamom Cookies

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 to 2 dozen cookies

Active Time: 1 1/2 hr
Total Time: 3 1/2 hr (includes chilling dough)


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest*
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom*
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
*I’m a bit heavy-handed with these. Be liberal — you won’t regret it!


Make dough:
Whisk together flour, zest, cardamom, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in yolk and cream. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches just until a dough forms. Quarter dough and form each piece into a 6-inch disk, then chill, wrapped separately in plastic wrap, until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Cut and bake cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into an 11-inch round (1/8 inch thick). Slide dough in parchment onto a tray and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.

Cut out as many cookies as possible with cookie cutter (chill dough again if necessary), reserving and chilling scraps. Transfer cookies to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, arranging them 1 inch apart.

I almost forgot to mention! Remember that woodland creatures cookie cutter set I got at Ikea a while back? I decided to use those too. How cute are these?! Of course the squirrel got me, but I’m surprised by how much I love the snail. A snail cookie? Awwww.

Bake until edges are golden-brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then slide cookies, still on parchment, onto a rack to cool completely.

Make more cookies with remaining dough and scraps (reroll only once) on cooled freshly lined baking sheets.

They looked great and tasted delicious, but they needed something…

Chocolate! Could you see that coming? So I threw some good dark chocolate in the microwave and drizzled it on the cookies.

Lovely AND delicious! So I’m still not sure what exactly to make for Wren’s birthday party… Maybe all of the above? Tell me what you think, dear readers. What gets your vote?

Happy Friday to you! It’s sunny, but chilly here today. Good thing I didn’t put away those mittens yet. Whew.


planting the seed!

If you’ve been following my drivel, you know I’ve mentioned thumbing through seed catalogs and planning a couple raised bed vegetable gardens this year. I spent more than a few hours this winter perusing catalogs with coffee in hand, pondering what interesting veggies I might grow from seed. All the while thinking that I’d have the seeds ordered and in hand by the end of March. So it hit me yesterday that it was already the end of March and I hadn’t even placed my order yet. Well well well. It’s the thought that counts? As it turns out, this philosophy will only get one Mamma so far.

It was time to stop thinking, wishing and hoping. Act already! Truth be told, I was overwhelmed by the hundreds of organic heirloom tomato possibilities and just needed to settle on a couple packets of seeds. But which ones? It was like going down the cereal aisle at a big grocery store. Too many choices!

48, sunny, and a desire to dig in the dirt pushed me to load up my little birdie and head to Target. Because when you think of gardening, you think of Target, right?! The last time I was there I noticed a good selection of seeds and I just HAD to get a few other things so there I found myself. Thankfully, Target and Burpee made the decision for me and only had organic Brandywine tomato seeds. I’m not a huge believer in fate, but this was possibly just meant to be. I also picked up a packet of organic cherry tomatoes called Sweeties. How cute is that? A packet of organic Chinese Giant peppers also jumped out at me. For instant gratification, I grabbed a packet of microgreens. In two weeks, we’ll apparently have something edible to snip off and munch on so I couldn’t resist. I also got some biodegradable seed-starting cells and I was on my way!

Side note: while I was shopping, Wren was playing with her kazoo in the cart and flirting with other shoppers. Have you ever seen a baby play a kazoo? It’s pretty damn funny.

I couldn’t wait to get home and get planting! Wren decided she didn’t want to be around when I was flinging potting soil every which way so she took a nap. Perfect timing!

Here are a few pics. Enjoy!

My hope in this seedling experiment is of the guarded sort because I’m not sure we have enough heat and light in the sun room, but it’s worth a shot! I’ll keep you posted on what happens this spring. Even though I check on them every hour or so, no shoots yet. Shoot.

So what about that fancy seed order? Well, I still want to place one for other fun stuff I’ll start from seed after Memorial Day. Spinach, beets, sugar snap peas, mache, carrots, basil, zinnia, bells of ireland, oh my! I will try to restrain myself because I want it to be an enjoyable summer and with a mobile toddler, I’m not sure how much garden maintenance I’m actually going to be doing… thankfully it’s still light out at 10 p.m. when I’ll probably be doing most of the weeding. With a cold beer in the other hand.

What about you, dear readers? What garden plans do you have this year? Will you be planting a “Victory Garden” too? Tell me about it!